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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
358 Posts

Posted - 30 Sep 2018 :  00:55:59  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well I finally finished Unclean. Typing while recovering from rotator cuff surgery, so this will be brief.

Szazz Tam's personality - RLB conveys him with a very patient, almost gentlemanly demeanor. I really like it, it goes well as a counterpoint to the horror we all know he really is. I was just curious if that is consistent with other portrayals of him. I can honestly say I can't recall seeing his mannerisms, or any speaking lines for that matter in other products, just people alluding to how powerful and terrifyihng he is. Did he make an appearance in Simbul's Gift I'm forgetting?

Chapter 4 - sigh... Byers did it again, having demons and devils in close proximity to each other and not instantly going for each other's throats. This was one of the biggest bugaboos of the Last Mythal Trilogy and it rears its head again here. C'mon Richard, do your research. This ties hand-in-hand with Seravin's comment above about how he didn't read Simbul's Gift to get a better feel for the personalities of the various zulkirs. However, to soften that blow, who is to say that Lynn Abbey's vision is the correct one? I personally thought she knocked it out of the park with that book - the personalities, the tone and character of Thay itself, etc. - but does that mean her version of those people is the correct one? I've already stated I far prefer RAS's Alustriel to Ed's, even though Greenwood is the creator and therefore should be the final arbiter. So while it would be nice if Byers read Abbey's book and continued to write the characters in that manner, there obviously was no mandate for him to do so. Ahh, the perils and pitfalls of a shared sandbox world I guess.

I dig Tam's overall scheme in general. Create problems for your country, and then demonstrate you are the only one that can solve them. It had a very Augustus Caesar vibe to it, with barbarians threatening at the gate. I was a little disappointed though when he petitioned the council to install him as a supreme leader. That lacked subtlety. Far better to continue the charade until the people and fellow councilers *ask* you to assume that mantle and you *reluctantly* accept it for the good of the people. Szass Tam overplayed his hand and I thought it was clumsy.

Aoth, Baraeris, Mirror, and so on are ok. They haven't endeared themselves to me as characters, but I don't dislike them either. They are interesting enough where I'm willing to let them develop further. The bard's side plot with his lady becoming a mutated vampire subtype is the most interesting of the bunch.

All in all it is an ok book. I like the political maneuvering, the large scale battles are engaging. But it does suffer from the aforementioned weaknesses. On to book 2: Undead
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
852 Posts

Posted - 30 Sep 2018 :  13:55:26  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Lynn Abbey's "Gift" was writen and came out first, and was an in-universe canon novel, so I think the onus is on RLB to carry her character's personalities onwards. If RLB had written it first and published it first, then Lynn would be the one reinventing the characters not RLB. So I think there is a responsibility in a shared setting to look into how the characters have been written and established in the canon material. It's just one book in this case (two if you count Red Magic from the Harpers which really had a lot of Szass) that you'd need to read before writing a Thay novel, on top of the sourcebook materials. I would say that her book followed the existing lore from the 2nd edition source material very, very well.

That's not a huge ask in my opinion for an author and certainly what any of us would do if writing a Realms novel!

Szass' portrayal is mostly in line with previous books, in Simbul's Gift he was recovering from a major setback so barely present except in the Zulkir convocation where everyone was shocked at how awful/weak he looked.


Edited by - Seravin on 30 Sep 2018 14:08:47
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
358 Posts

Posted - 06 Oct 2018 :  01:52:01  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin
That's not a huge ask in my opinion for an author and certainly what any of us would do if writing a Realms novel!



Agreed. I'm knocking out one of these pretty much per week and that's in my spare time. If it was my job, I would consider these research and finish it in 2-3 days max. Somewhere in this thread is a quote from Elaine detailing her approach - she basically saw the Realms as a world and all existing products (novels, rulebooks, even video games) as the *history* of that world, and immersed herself fully. It'd be nice to see that level of commitment across the board. There's a lot I like about Byers writing style and sensibilities, but he does get some things really wrong from time to time.

That said, I finished Undead a couple days ago. My first note was "Spellplague, Ugghhh!" I knew I was getting closer to this unfortunate event and the subsequent ~100 year time jump, but I didn't realize it was going to happen right there in the middle of the trilogy. It was jarring, it was demoralizing, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I hate all the silly contrivances that have to take place to preserve a roster of characters - Aoth is magically preserved by the blue flame and doesn't age, Bareris turns undead, all the zulkirs extend their lifespans with magic, even the ones that might normally find such necromancy distasteful. I imagine I will encounter a similar degree of handwaving when I get to the Drizzt and Superfriends books of this time period.

I'm surprised that Aglarond and Rashemen haven't made any more aggressive moves against Thay during all this turmoil (before the blue fire, they're probably busy from that point.) It would seem the ripe time to weaken a country that has been a constant thorn in your side forever - if not to invade and annex land, at the very least to cripple their military, perhaps remove key generals and leaders, etc. Maybe they are too wary that the whole civil war is just a staged event to draw them into a trap. Or maybe they are just happy to not be the target of aggression and would rather not poke the bear. Do they at least have some kind of mutual defense pact where they assist each other during Thayan incursion?

Bareris and Tammith have this kind of dark, gothic, angsty teen romance thing going. I thought I was going to find it cheesy and tiring, but I'm actually liking it for some reason. Maybe it's just their sheer resignation and hopelessness - just two damned souls trying to make the most of a pretty grim situation. I do like the darkness and grittiness of this book, Byers certainly isn't adding any sunshine and flowers.

What was up with Tam summoning Bane and then wheeling and dealing with him? For some reason I absolutely HATED this part of the book. It seems so out-of-character for Szass, even if he sees himself as the manipulator hoodwinking a deity. It just seemed to come from left field and took me by surprise, and not in a good way. Maybe Seravin or someone else can articulate better why I completely loathed this development, it just didn't work for me in any way.

Up next, might as well finish it out with Unholy, about two thirds of the way through as of this writing.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 07 Oct 2018 22:16:38
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5281 Posts

Posted - 06 Oct 2018 :  02:30:50  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I just wanted to tell you VikingLegion that I always enjoy your posts and commentary re the FR novel line. Always good to revisit old reads and sometimes get a different perspective on them. Much appreciated.

-- George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
358 Posts

Posted - 07 Oct 2018 :  22:31:23  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thank you George. You've been a valued part of this thread with your encyclopediac knowledge of the Realms. For my part I'm happy to keep it going all the way up to the final novel.

I just finished powering through Unholy, wrapping up the Haunted Lands Trilogy. I didn't have many notes for this one, I think I sort of fatigued out on the overall story. I did enjoy the twist with Malark betraying Tam and assuming control of the Unmaking. Other than that, this story (and indeed the whole trilogy) seemed to be just one big military engagement after another. Definitely not Byers best work.

Also it really irked me that after defeating Malark in an epic battle that was draining all their reserves, Szass was then able to easily dispatch 4 other zulkirs plus Aoth. I get it, his undead lifespan has allowed him a greater mastery of magic than other zulkirs. But c'mon, these guys are also masters of their craft. Szass should be able to beat any one of them easily, even any two of them in combination. But 4 plus a very powerful battlemage/leader of the Brotherhood of the Griffin? He slaughtered them with almost contemptuous ease, thus assuring the continued state of Thay as a boring necropolis instead of the magnificent and interesting nation it once was. Yay for WoW.

I see there's a Griffon trilogy coming up in the future, but honestly with Bareris and Mirror destroyed I'm not sure how interested I am in that. They were by far the more intriguing members of that group, Aoth is sort of one-note and not all that exciting.

Up next - I'm supposed to start the Empyrean Odyssey, but I just don't want to handle another RSE, Cosmos Shattering Event at this point. So I'll skip that for now and take on some more standard fare in a return to the Citadels series with book 2: Obsidian Ridge.


Edited by - VikingLegion on 07 Oct 2018 22:32:51
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
852 Posts

Posted - 11 Oct 2018 :  14:48:25  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I was half expecting you to like this series so I'm glad I'm not the only one who disliked it (although my dislike is more like hate for this trilogy for a number of reasons already listed).

quote:
What was up with Tam summoning Bane and then wheeling and dealing with him? For some reason I absolutely HATED this part of the book. It seems so out-of-character for Szass, even if he sees himself as the manipulator hoodwinking a deity. It just seemed to come from left field and took me by surprise, and not in a good way. Maybe Seravin or someone else can articulate better why I completely loathed this development, it just didn't work for me in any way.


The thing for me is, in all the other depictions of Tam that I can recollect: Red Magic, Simbul's Gift, and Crusade (from the Empires trilogy the only good RSE imho) - Szass Tam is previously written as someone who is almost noble, well spoken, above gross displays of his vast power, and happy to work through agents and behave very pragmatically even with Harpers or "good" beings. So he does come across out of character in this part of the book to me. Generally I hate when "mortals" (I know that's not the case with Szass but bear with) deal with Gods anyway - nevermind trying to pull one over on them or anything of the sort. To me Gods and inhabitants of the Realms should not be interacting directly; only through Chosen or priests etc. Avatars should be saved for RSE (I liked when Tempus appeared in the 3rd Shadow of the Avatar book to help the Dalesmen against the Zhents for instance).

Good call on waiting a while before the Empyrean Odyssey! Fortunately once the dust settles there is some solid 4E material to read even by a curmedgeon's standards.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
358 Posts

Posted - 12 Oct 2018 :  14:07:57  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Obsidian Ridge last night. I'm guessing I'm the only one who has read this, so discussion will be non-existent. It wasn't a great book, but it had its moments. There were some goofy elements, like a night-prowling vigilante named The Claw who was basically Batman with a dash of Wolverine sprinkled in. Add in some terrible dialogue like, "I'll get you for this, Korox! You'll be dead soon, and so will the Claw!" and it came off very comic-booky.

The story was set in Erlkazar in 1366. I just can't seem to avoid this area of late. It's not a region I find particularly interesting, but I can only go where the books take me. Anyway, we have a king of a young nation (only recently liberated from Tethyr) defending his land against a mad wizard and his flying mountain fortress. I've always really liked the cloud castle theme - from Jack and the Beanstalk, to the flying citadels of the Dragonarmy in the Dragonlance books, to the floating enclaves of Netheril, to several D&D adventures featuring cloud/storm giants up there in there flying castles - it really gets my imagination fired up. Anyway, this immortal mage needs a new bride every few decades, as he drains their life-force to power his own longevity. He has his eye on the king's daughter. It forces an interesting moral dilemma - give up your one and only daughter but save thousands of your subject's lives?

There were some sideplots involving a criminal organization distributing an illegal drug called Elixir. That same group had their own princess kidnapping/ransom scheme going, so it was amusing to see the king struggling with his decision when handing over the princess wasn't even an option at that point (as she had been abducted by thugs.) There was a Deepspawn, one of my favorite monsters, so that was awesome. There were clerics of Waukeen casting divine spells, wasn't she destroyed during the ToT or am I remembering wrong? All in all it was an ok book. The writing quality was mostly sub-par, but it was a quick and easy read with a few interesting elements. I've read far worse (looking at you Once Around the Realms - still the gold standard for hideousness).

Up next, still not into committing to a trilogy right now, so I'll keep going with the standalone Citadels. Due up is Shield of Weeping Ghosts, which I'm cautiously optimistic for, as I really liked the author's previous work: Bloodwalk.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 12 Oct 2018 14:09:24
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Demzer
Senior Scribe

652 Posts

Posted - 12 Oct 2018 :  14:42:41  Show Profile Send Demzer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

There were clerics of Waukeen casting divine spells, wasn't she destroyed during the ToT or am I remembering wrong?



During the ToT, to try and sneak back to her home plane, Waukeen left her divinity in trust to Lliira and started a plane hopping journey to smuggle herself back home as a super powerful mortal. Graz'zt reneged on his part of the bargain when she showed up in the Abyss and she was held captive there until 1371 when she was freed by adventurers (a playable module from late 2E called For Duty and Deity).

From 1358 until 1371 the Joybringer kept answering prayers of the Waukenaars and granting them spells. After 1371 Waukeen was back on full divinity (albeit with a much reduced pool of faithful since over her absence a lot converted to the direct worship of Lliira).
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
358 Posts

Posted - 21 Oct 2018 :  19:40:01  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks Demzer, good info.

I finished The Shield of Weeping Ghosts a couple days ago. I really like James P. Davis' writing style. I mentioned this in Bloodwalk but I don't recall there being any responses to that writeup. Shield was a bit more moody, maudlin, lots of flashbacks and ghostly angst. It did bog down at times, but overall I thought he did a really good job of describing the anguish of the spirits - locked for eternity in their time loops, doomed to forever repeat a series of horrific events. The action takes place primarily in the ruin of Shandaular, an old city on the Ashane Lake right on the border of Rashemen and Narfell. Most of the Rashemen books I've read thus far have done an admirable job of describing the location and culture (of one of my favorite areas of the Realms) and this was no exception. The main character is a vremyonni (male wizard) being sent into exile for dubious crimes. He is escorted by a fang of berserkers led by a wychlaren. They travel through the ruins of Shandaular, which is supposed to be a wychlaren-controlled outpost that guards against foreign intrusion. But the witches are missing and many of the protective wards that hold the angry spirits at bay have been erased or corrupted. We also get quite a bit of the demon-worshipping Nar involved, so bonus points for that. Good story for the most part, very interesting characters and an intriguing plot. Not quite as good as Bloodwalk, but not far behind, and I'm happy to see I still have 2 more books from this author.

If I can tangent for a bit, I feel like a lot of these standalone series - The Classes, The Dungeons, The Citadels, and so on got a bad wrap. I expected them to be of widely varying qualities, and that much is true, but I've also found several gems amongst them. I wonder if they just didn't sell all that well and have limited exposure. This was a decade ago, and I wasn't reading any FR at the time, so I don't have a good feel for the pulse of what was going on in that time frame. Anyway, up next I wrap up the Citadels series with the 4th book: Sentinelspire.
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5281 Posts

Posted - 22 Oct 2018 :  05:10:22  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I liked lots of Shield, but the author's description of the key maguffin was confusing and it took several reads before I twigged that effectively he was trying to harness the Blood War to fight of the Narfelli demons. I think. Not the worst FR book for totally confusing plotlines but it had its moments. James P Davis did his homework though, as he asked me what the name of the Narfelli ruling family at the time was - Crell.

-- George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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